Sunday, January 23, 2011

One for the Road

I’ve been busy cleaning up the house and packing things up since yesterday, as we fly off tonight. So in the spirit of keeping things in a ‘as in’ condition and not having to deal with grease/grime, we’ve been eating out since last night. Nainai also came along, as I figured it’d be our last proper pre-CNY reunion meal till we get home (tonight won’t count, as it will probably be rushed…).

We headed out after she woke up from her afternoon nap, going to Solana and ending up at a Taiwanese restaurant called Golden Spoon (been wanting to try the one at The Place, so finally got to visit it). The food was ok, and the portions quite reasonable, and even our girl enjoyed the Taiwanese fare as she fed herself independently. I think it was the first time in a long while that Nainai and Wayne saw Rosabelle feeding herself so well, and they were quite amazed at her appetite and ability, especially when she knows to clean up after herself and not create a mess in the first place. In the end, when all the adults were done, she was still eating spoonfuls of rice, haha! And then she called out, ‘服务员,买单!' on her own accord and the waitress actually heard and acknowledged it, haha! There was once when I shifted her high chair in and got her finger caught between the table – ouch! Of course she cried, but as quickly got over it…

After we were done with dinner, it was already close to 10pm, and the shops were closing, but we quickly went to the shopping area to walk off dinner. Our girl strangely kept wanting Nainai to carry, and even cried, making Nainai’s heart ache as she carried her up. I insisted that she not be carried and actually forcefully plucked her out of Nainai’s arms, as I was irritated that Nainai gave in to her demands. Of course that made her bawl even louder and I told her off for being so unreasonable, holding her hand and asking her to go back to the car and sit in the car seat if she was really so tired.

By this time, Nainai had cleverly hid away in the shops, so she was crying as she looked for Nainai – I must have looked the part of the evil stepmother who is never there, and thus has a daughter who is more attached to and looking for her Nainai, haha! Soon enough, she stopped crying and obediently just held Nainai’s hand. She NEVER asks to be carried when she is alone with me, so I don’t wish for ANYBODY to set a precedent. My mantra? If you are tired, let’s go home, or find a place to sit down. I am not going to carry you just because you are crying – you can bawl all you want in a corner and I will just move on without you, so there.

After that, we went to the children’s section at the basement, where we saw a Lego workman figurine she gamely posed with.
When she wanted to pose with another figurine inside (the shutters were actually already half-down), the lights in the shop suddenly went out, so she got worried and quickly scuttled out, haha… Then we came across a playhouse which belonged to some kids’ photo studio (but the staff had obviously already gone), so our girl went in and had the whole place to herself.
She played and rubbed against the house so much she had so much static – not sure if her porcupine 'do can be seen clearly from the photos, but it did look quite funny!
After that, we had to head upstairs for fear of the main exit being closed, and headed on home. In the car, she was again trying to be difficult, crying when Nainai sat in front instead of at the back with her (Nainai gets a tad carsick if she sits at the back), so I had to reason with her and tell her Nainai will get a headache if she sits with her at the back. After she calmed down, she could tell me 'Nainai headache’, showing that she at least understood and was being reasonable. After that, I told her that she was being naughty in the shopping center in crying for Nainai to carry her. She nodded in agreement, and as we were getting down the car, she told me, ‘不用奶奶抱, 下来 hold hands自己走...' good! Lesson learnt!

And so I’m having the luxury of time to blog my last post before we head off tonight – I asked Wayne to bring Nainai and Rosabelle out for lunch, and they left me with about 4 hours to blast some dance music and clean/clear up without anybody getting in the way. Turns out they headed to Yu Island at The Place for some activity time at the different play stations before heading for lunch, and hopefully it was fun for them all since it’s the first time they were bringing her out without me, heh! Of the snacks I prepared for her, they could not get her to eat the cheese, and forgot to feed her the pomelo, haha… At least it gives them some alone time before their dear Yue Yue goes off for a month – can imagine how much they’d miss her!

Coconut, coconut, say Ek-O!

On Thursday, I was planning to bring Rosabelle to Little Oxford to look at the last of the kindys on my shortlist, but when I called in the morning, they said classes for those at Rosabelle’s age and a year older are already full, and though I can feel free to view/visit (no appointments required, hmmm…), I will only be put on a shortlist. And so I thought… it’s 大寒, supposedly the coldest day ever in winter, and we had no car, so I needed to take a taxi to SOHO New Town, then take a short walk opposite to Shin Kong Place for lunch. Thus, the shopaholic in me took over – Little Oxford is just a back-up and the lowest on my shortlist anyway (not that good), and we have all the time in the world to look at it in better weather, so I decided to bring her to Shin Kong Place directly.

Luckily the winds weren’t really strong that morning, but it was still sub-zero cold, and taking a cab these days in our apartment area is really tantamount to striking the lottery, which I thankfully did after walking quite a distance outside, carrying her, phew!

Upon reaching there, we randomly walked around (I really wasn’t keen to go hardcore and shop – stay rational, woman!), going to the usual Panasonic Centre to take a photo (will be fun to track her look/growth in all the pictures as I always date them), then to the kid’s section to play some Quercetti beads/Lego. Since we headed out late, I did not give her any fruit snack, and was counting on an early lunch (as I was hungry too), but obviously she didn’t want to leave the toys section until after much cajoling.

I then went to Crystal Jade, where there was a queue of 6 tables in front of us – oh dear! As I was looking at the menu in the waiting room, Rosabelle kept running out, and at one point, I really did lose her and even grabbed my bags, wanting to run out and look for her, but hesitated. Within seconds, she bounded back in. In times like these, I’d prefer to wait awhile more and see if she can find her way back, than for us to run after each other in circles, but it was quite scary at that split second thinking I had no idea where she was, all alone. Luckily her sense of direction is not as terrible as mine…

Other than a loo trip, nothing else uneventful popped up during our 15-minute wait, where I had already filled out the dim sum wait list so that by the time we were led to our table, they could immediately process our order. In spite of them running at full house and having a restaurant full of diners asking/shouting/demanding for anything and everything, service was really commendable (erm, that’s why they charge a 10% service charge PER adult).

Our girl was really quite hungry, first slurping up the plain water I emptied into her bowl (which she toppled over and thankfully did not soak her pants…), then eating up 3 of the 4小笼包 I ordered – if I wasn’t so hungry and quickly ate one up, I’m sure she would have walloped them all. Then she downed one whole slab of glutinous rice with conpoy chicken, and half a small bowl of pork porridge with preserved egg. Clap, clap! To top it all, 7 strawberries wolfed down after that, haha! One lady seated next to us with an 18-month-old daughter commented it’s amazing Rosabelle can be so well-behaved over the meal and feed herself. (*pat on back* - for both mother and daughter, erhem…).

After lunch, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to head home immediately as it was quite a heavy meal, and she had woken up late that morning anyway. So we headed to Huamao Shopping Centre using the underpass, because I wanted to look for a Teletubbies Centre I was reading about.

Confession time: I used to love Teletubbies quite a bit - when they first came out, I actually ostracized them for being so irritating (what’s with the babyish gurgles/sounds and ‘Again, again!’ when they wanted to repeat the exact footage two times over…), uncute (are they mocking pear-shaped women?!!!), and even agreed to some of the conspiracy theories about Tinky Winky (the purple one with a triangular antenna) being gay (which male wears a ballet frock to dance, and likes purple and triangles – both of which are elements of the rainbow club)?

But I was converted on one rainy afternoon (I’d like to think it was bad weather that kept me in with really NOTHING else to do in Singapore, forcing me to flick TV channels) when I viewed one episode on TV. Gosh! Seriously! These 4 babies are sooooo cute! I can totally relax with the gurgling, their ‘everything is so rainbow-y and sunshine-y’ world, the cute baby-faced sun, and had a favourite in Po (at times Laa Laa). It’s embarrassing, I tell you. I even changed my computer icons to a Teletubbies pack, so I’d be greeted with a ‘Ek-O!’ when I turned it on, have a baby’s face instead of an hourglass, and Po’s face instead of a pointer (you get the drift). Eh, they are apparently teaching kids quite a lot of things, ok?

Know what’s the worst thing? I was already in university. So there. If you already did your math, you’d know these folks came out like about 10 years ago, so I couldn’t have been that young, could I? Anyway, I’m so glad (think my ex-boyfriend also was) that that senseless devotion to capturing every single episode (this was before the days of freely-available DVDs and downloads, mind you), and enjoying a seemingly hookah-moment in those 30 minutes I was in La La Land was over!

Point is, up to now, I have not yet introduced Rosabelle to TV – no Sesame Street, no Walt Disney, no Baby Einstein, no whatever award-winning thingey, so she was first inducted into the Teletubbies club whilst flipping through a parenting magazine. And there I was, reliving my ‘childhood’ memories by going through each and every character and singing ‘Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Lala, Po. Teletubbies, teletubbies, say hello. Ek-O!’. Before I knew it, she was picking them out in other reading materials, and could even sing along. Shudder… That’s why I thought – no harm heading down to the Teletubbies Centre if it makes her (or my?) day, right?

And so we got there, as she excitedly asked me when I got waylaid by a Muji sale on the way, whether this was the Teletubbies Centre. It’s amazing she actually agreed to her mother’s request to shop around in Muji first, even when she was so eager to get to Teletubbies land, haha. It wasn’t a very big space, maybe about 4-5 shop space, but had everything a Teletubby fan could ask for – as you can imagine, this is a BBC set-up, so there’s loads of branding (they don’t even have this in the UK or the States, only in China, as this is a big market for them, and they are already well-known enough in English-speaking markets).

The receptionist brought us around to the different activity rooms (for crafts, dancing, cooking), and the play areas with exercise equipment/slides, Teletubby dome, library area etc. It was all very nice and unique, and Rosabelle wasted no time in helping herself to the different toys and equipment as I enquired about the prices. It costs RMB120 per entry, but of course you play for free if you attend their classes (which, at the cheapest package, costs more than RMB200 per session). Yuliya also has Kindermusik here on Saturdays, but at a rate almost double what I pay for Familier, it certainly isn’t worthwhile! (I asked Yuliya about it and she said she can’t fix the rates at Teletubbies Center, but at Familier, she can, so she doesn’t really do much publicity about her work at the former. As she rightly pointed out, Teletubbies is a brand, and I can imagine paying so much for their marketing/franchising etc etc.)

I spoke to the boss, and she admitted rental is rather expensive at Huamao, but the BBC had strict stipulations she had to follow in looking for a space, and of course talked about how different/premium they are from other centres… However, they asked if I’d like to bring Rosabelle for a trial session the next morning for their crafts class for RMB50 – hey, why not?

During this time, Rosabelle was playing with their assistants/teachers, and at one point, she actually pushed their small supermarket trolley out, having the two ladies run after her. Apparently, she was having so much fun, speeding up when she saw them chasing her, and when they caught her, she said she was going to the supermarket to buy things, haha! And when the teacher pretended to sell her a mangosteen, she also pretended to take fake money out of her pockets to ‘pay’ her.

As you can imagine, I had a hard time trying to get her to leave, but it was already past 4pm and I didn’t want to outlive our visit (we didn’t pay for her to use the facilities), so when we finally got onto a taxi, I asked if she was tired. She said no, and that she wanted to go home to look for Nainai, and that she misses her, aiyo!

When we got home, she immediately KO-ed after I nursed her, and amazingly slept through the night that night (i.e. did not get up for milk), woohoo! But bad thing is she got up by 8am the next morning, when I was still groggy. I am sure she is on some energizer-spiked drug at times – even us adults are so tired out!

Anyway, we had all the time in the world for her to have her breakfast and get changed so that Wayne could fetch us back to Teletubbies Center for our class, and we got there just in time to join 5 other kids and their mummies at the lobby area. They had to each introduce themselves in turn, using a microphone, and our girl was really up to it, grabbing the mike and shouting loudly and clearly ‘两岁! 石玥! 两岁!' (She can now also introduce herself with a ‘Hi, my name is Rosie. What’s your name?’, saying it so sweetly I cannot help but smile everytime I hear it…)

I don’t really like the concept of them using TV to teach/introduce to the kids, but that’s how they get the children hooked on the series, I guess? Anyway, we were learning about the colour red that day, so we watched a short 3-minute clip from the DVD, and went into the classroom to get ready. I’d brought her usual meal-time bib, but they provided aprons and sleeve-protectors, so it was good.

Each child had a glass of plain water set in front of them, and as I was adjusting my bag, Rosabelle had downed half a glass. Oh dear! Luckily it’s just tap water and not some poisonous paint! They then got some red paint and a dropper, where they practised using the dropper to mix into the plain water, and then using this to ‘paint’ onto a blank piece of paper. Po also came into the room (one staff member dressed in the costume, of course) with her trademark red handbag (made crudely out of paper, if I may add). Throughout this time, whenever Rosabelle saw anything interesting, like the teacher bringing out the red paint or dropper, or when Po came by, she would run over to the other end with a 我看一下... and the teacher wasn’t the most encouraging, asking her to go back to her seat all the time.

Our girl had her own ideas and decided not to use the dropper. Instead, she emptied the whole cup of red paint onto her paper (thankfully quite thick paper), and I then helped her swish it around a little to form a pattern, before having her help me pour the excess paint back into the cup. After that, she took some crayons and starting drawing around on the canvas, then decided she was done, saying she wanted to go out. Erm… ok… in all, she only stayed in the room for 15 minutes. Thank goodness I am paying only RMB50 for this lesson – paying more than RMB200 would make me want to force her to stay inside to get my money’s worth man, haha!

And this is what she did.
I thought it looked like a giraffe, or even a seahorse, but when I asked her what it was she wanted to present to Nainai, she said ‘rainbow’. Oh, the beauty of a child’s vivid imagination, even with bi-coloured rainbows and all…

As I let her out to play around the center, I noticed they were preparing for another class, the cooking class, and asked if I could let her try that out for another RMB50, heh! I’m glad we attended the session, as it was quite fun as we learnt how to make 玉米饼, starting from patting the dough down, pouring flour over it, using a butter knife to spread peanut butter on, then twisting it into a bun (I failed miserably in this – other mummies obviously knew their jiaozi-making, and it was plain for all to see I’m not the Jamie Oliver of mums there), and flattening them again. At one point, Rosabelle was more focused on eating the peanut butter with her fingers, and she thankfully got over it to help me glaze her pastries with beaten egg before the teacher popped them into the toaster.

There were more children in this class, and when one boy older than her was squeamish about introducing himself, she quickly ran over and hugged him tightly, kissing him until he had to push her away, haha! As we had to wait half an hour for the pastries to be done, we of course hung around, and it was easy for her to while time away - though I did not really like the idea of being my own potty maid when Rosabelle had to go on a potty, and I had to walk to the shared toilets in the mall (imagine Hua Mao Shopping Centre as a posh place, then imagine me holding a potty full of yellow, smelly toddler’s urine) to empty it as they did not have their own toilets in the center. Sheesh….

When her pastries were done, the teacher helped to cut two pieces up, leaving a third piece for us to bring home. However, our girl insisted it was hers and wanted the teacher to cut it up as well. So when the teacher just sliced it into half, she asked that she cut it up into even smaller pieces, aiyo… That’s her enjoying her morning’s creation!
Those few pieces were enough to get her going, whilst I was simply famished and wanting to go for lunch. The staff even donned Teletubbies suit and did the same Teletubbies dance like 5-6 times in a row. I really pity the ladies… I’m sure they weren’t counting on dancing around in a pear-shaped suit to be in their resume, but have to take my hats off to them for remaining so enthusiastic throughout… In the end, we only left way past 1pm, with a few pieces of her pastries in a take-away for Nainai and Papa. It actually tasted quite good, haha!

This time round, we walked to Pizza Hut for lunch, where we got a ‘window’ seat (it’s in Shin Kong basement level, so it means we got a seat just next to the underpass), and she was waving to everybody that passed us. I told her to look out for sad-looking people, and that they will definitely smile and wave back if you waved at them. She felt a great sense of accomplishment when I told her it makes the sad people happy if you are nice and friendly to them, and truly it is – you can see the most terrible of grouches, and suddenly, their whole face lights up, or they at least break into a slight smile when they see a child waving furiously at them. So sweet…

After lunch, I was hesitant whether to head on home directly, or walk lunch off, so we got going awhile until I remembered that I had a facial appointment at 3:30pm (it was already 3pm). After making a few calls, I then changed it to the next day, and thought that I might as well bring Rosabelle for a haircut. I asked if she wanted to go home or cut her hair, and she chose the latter, guess mainly because that meant she could stay out longer, haha! One salon I enquired with costs RMB88 per cut, and Rosabelle was walking out saying she did not want to cut her hair… so I went to the 5th level with the children’s section and figured these folks must have more experience with kids since they are just behind the kids’ play area (parents like myself would surely consider bringing their kids there, right?).

And so I enquired – RMB50 for a child’s cut, sounds reasonable… so I coerced/convinced/bluffed my girl into going into the hair salon, where she suddenly changed her mind and started crying when I took off her jacket and outer blouse. I had to carry her and distract her with the water spray, tissue paper, mirror etc, and of course she did not allow them to put on a shield for her. In the end, she only had a small towel around her neck, and that was after bluffing her that she was supposed to wipe the mirror dry after she was done with the spraying. As she stood on the chair, I then put my arm around her to stop her from moving/turning back, and at one point, she realized that the hairdresser had started snipping away, and she started crying again. I felt quite bad as it was already way past her nap-time, so she was understandably grouchy, but she very quickly got distracted by the mirror and water spray again, and was surprisingly cooperative for the rest of the cut.

When it came to the fringe, she of course fidgeted, so she ended up sitting on my lap as I used my hands to shield her eyes from the dropping hair. I was so proud of her for being such a good girl and not even moving, haha! The hairdresser ended up cutting a gentle slope for the fringe, saying a straight cut would look silly. But the slope was too gradual – it looked more like a cut gone bad than anything trendy, so I asked him to just snip everything to the same length, and then we were ready to go! Of course she and I had hair all over us, and I had to use a masking tape to stick hair bits off us.

She was rewarded with a short play session just outside as I settled the bill and got ready to go, and we then went downstairs to grab a taxi. Along the way, our girl received a lot of curious stares and smiles as she looked so cute with a coconut husk for a head, haha! Her face, like mine, isn’t the most slim (i.e. quite like the moon at times, the full moon at that), and with a forehead that’s quite broad, she did look pretty comical! I had two separate groups of strangers telling me she looked so cute with the hairdo, wahahaha….

The taxi queue was quite long, with about 5-6 people in front of us, but luckily they had the sense of mind to have the queue indoors, so that when it’s your turn, you go out and grab the cab (rather than having all of us stand in the cold). When it came to our turn, I asked Rosabelle to stay with the security guard indoors whilst I waited outside myself, mainly because I did not want her to stand with me in the harsh weather, and also because some drivers do not like to pick up fare with children. As I waited outside, our girl obediently stood next to the man, and at times ran out, or into the shopping centre, as the poor guy had to chase after/babysit her. On retrospect, it was quite dangerous as they cannot claim responsibility should anything happen to her, or if she got lost, but our girl was really the most obliging and actually made friends with the guy as I waited, heh!

At last, we got the taxi, and I actually got in and had to wait for them abit as the poor security guy came scurrying by carrying her – she must have scooted off somewhere and he had to chase after her. When we reached home, she happily ran towards the house with the packet of pastries she baked in class. She nicely offered Nainai one piece, and after getting changed, started chomping on the rest in the pack as well, claiming she was not sleepy and did not want ‘milk milk time’… so I got her to pose with her new ‘do.
How’s that for a RMB50 cut? I’m assuming at the rate her hair grows, it should hopefully look more 'normal’ by CNY, haha!
As for Teletubbies, I am not really keen to sign up, given the high rates, but will consider visiting the place for play time since it’s near our house. Ek-o!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Suzy Wong

I thought that Rosabelle looked very cute in the cheongsum she donned in the Weikaqi shoot, so in the spirit of the upcoming ching-chong CNY, I did a scour on my favourite Taobao, and found a shop specializing in children’s cheongsums (that’s very important – I did not want to deal with somebody with no knowledge of cheongsums, and was usually more focused on selling women’s beauty products, or other more expensive children’s clothing). So I narrowed the choices down to 3 designs, and got 2 for Rosabelle, and one for Marianne.

Our girl was the most cooperative in changing into them and striking poses! I really have no idea where she got the ‘hand behind head, foot raised in slight tilt’ pose from – it’s so scary!
Then she changed into another one, in the exact same size, but the cloth seemed harder/thicker, so it did not fit/hug her as well, but still looked very sweet and festive, nonetheless.
Nice! This is a great take on the boring traditional flowers on silk material cheongsums I see all over Singapore. Hope she’ll get good reviews and more angpow money, haha!

Speaking of the New Year, I was scheduled to meet up with friends like ex-colleague
Pauline, but she emailed me saying she got into an accident where their car skidded off the road and banged into a tree, totally wrecking it. Her hubby had to get an op for his left hand fracture, whilst she has to wear a brace for her neck to waist for 6 months. Oh my goodness! I was telling her it’s lucky her two girls were not in the car, and that she’s not pregnant (the impact cut the seatbelt so deep into her tummy it caused a blue-black). So poor thing! I really hope to be able to see them over CNY, even at their home, and hope the little gifts she asked me to get from Taobao for the girls will cheer them/her up somewhat.

My safe harbor

The other night, Rosabelle was throwing an unreasonable tantrum when I told her we’re going to wash her up after she peed (she was reading some books and said she needed to go). Maybe it’s because she was in the midst of something intriguing and wanted to get back to it, but that made her angry as she cried, refusing to stand on the step stool to wash her hands, asking Nainai to carry her as she cried.

I was getting impatient and angry for this senseless crying and snatched her away from Nainai, putting her onto the step stool and washing her hands for her before wiping her face and neck roughly. She knew that I was really angry and as Nainai carried her up for me to wash her groin and feet, so she kept saying, ‘不再哭了, 不再哭了...'. I just ignored her and ranted away, and when Nainai carried her to the room, she covered her face with the bath towel, which I pulled away, as I wanted to take off her tops to wipe her armpits. That got her started again on the crying and I was most rough with removing her clothes before stomping out hastily when I was done. I absolutely have no patience for such unreasonable crying and clearly let her know I was very angry.

When she was done with dressing up, Nainai fed her gripe water and went off to bathe, leaving her to go back to the same books she was looking at before the bath. I was at the dinner table planning the next day’s meal, and Rosabelle’s back was faced to me all the time. For at least 10 minutes, she just flipped away at the pages of the book all by herself, until I asked ‘Did Nainai comb your hair for you?’ – she turned and answered meekly, ‘Comb already’, before looking back at her books again.

I could see she knew she was wrong and did not dare to offend me further, and she even got up once to look for Nainai, who was bathing, so I asked if she wanted to sit with me at the table and bring her book and markers for some drawing. After that, I reminded her again that she was naughty and cried unnecessarily, making me angry, and she went into her ‘Mummy’ tone again, indicating she knew. Nainai thinks she’s such an obedient child, consolable even when crying, and knowing that she did wrong. I at times think I should/can be more patient with her, and wonder if I am teaching her to be so short-fused and impatient with my harsh teachings. At other times, I am heartened by the fact that it teaches her that I will not tolerate any nonsense or unprovoked crying, and she then knows to stop.

That’s her with Nainai over lunch the other day, when she requested for me to take a photo of them both, heh! They are really each other’s teacher, like when Nainai asked her what Mummy meant when I said ‘Coming!’ whenever she calls for ‘Milk milk time!’. After some thought, she said, ‘来了, 来了!', which I thought a most apt and accurate translation!
Over this period, she’s been having a hearty appetite (touch wood!), maybe also because we went to the chiro’s on Sunday (as I was having a strained neck). We had lunch outside at The Place (where I even got a pair of cute denim shorts for her from Zara kids sale), eating at a Yunnan restaurant. Whilst I was looking at the menu, she went up to another table with a couple and two boys of about 9-10 years old. She called, ‘哥哥,哥哥!', then went on to say ‘哥哥嘴巴脏,快点擦擦吧!' – the poor boy was so embarrassed but the couple guffawed away, heh!

After that, we headed to Doctor D’s place, where I had my treatment first and there wasn’t any major issue with me, heh! But Rosabelle kept wanting to cry if Dr. D so much as went near her, so I had no choice but to carry her with her back facing to him, then lean against a wall as he felt awhile, then did a loud CRACCCCCK! Heh, her crying stopped as soon as he stopped touching her – apparently, T6 was out of place, causing problems like indigestion and temperaments. I told Dr. D maybe that’s why it’s Day 5 since she pooped!

Miraculously, within 10 minutes of the ‘treatment’, as she was going down the steps, she had THAT look (of needing to poop) on her face, and true enough, she probably let go of 5 days’ worth in the loo, haha! Quite amazing… I told Wayne we should learn the ropes from Dr. D and start cracking her whenever she’s constipated, wahaha… (erm… of course not – the spine is such a fragile structure, I wouldn’t want to mess with it!).

The Search Continues…

After giving the lowdown on Ke’er and Qiming, I visited New Garden at Fu Li Cheng on Monday. Since Wayne was going to the airport (in Sanya for a client meeting for three days), he gave me a lift in the taxi (thank goodness he called for a cab, as there was none as we were walking out!), and stopped us opposite a shopping complex called Viva. We had to walk past and around that, then further into the massive Fu Li Cheng development to get to D area, and it was very cold with strong winds so I had no choice but to carry Rosabelle. And now I still have a backache from carrying her over such a long distance (about 20 minutes?) as I had no idea the kindergarten was located all the way on the other end of the development, phew!

Anyway, here’s the report card… (it costs the least of the 3 schools so far, and I am undecided whether I should visit Little Oxford):

New Garden - The Good (quite similar to the points for Ke’er and Qiming):
- Information for parents clearly displayed
- Some amount of children’s art being displayed in common areas and classrooms
- TV is used only occasionally as a supplement
- They have a once-a-week cleaning of toys, with bedding sent home for parents to wash
- Their sick-kid policy of sending kids with fevers home
- They practise a half-day bilingual scheme where one English native speaker is in class/leads the class for the earlier half of the day
- As they are in a relatively high-class residential area, their surroundings/compounds etc were all quiet, clean, and safe-looking.

New Garden – The Stellar
- I had to make an appointment to see them, and the teacher said she left word with their security guy to let me in, marking strong security/communication amongst staff.
- The teacher received me at the gate and sat me down, presenting me with a folder to browse through as I looked at their menus, syllabus, and general information – the curriculum looked well-planned and thought-out. I forgot to bring cheese for Rosabelle so she just ate some seaweed, and as we were preparing to leave the room, she took her down jacket and passed it to the teacher, saying ‘阿姨帮玥玥穿吧!', heh!
- Parents’ comms seems very good and comprehensive with a daily report, and the teacher was involved in PTA all of last week.
- They offer healthy foods (no junk food), using organic foodstuff and healthy olive oil!
- As I am at times hesitant about putting Rosabelle in a class of younger kids for 2-3 year olds (the case if she were to enter the September class, as in China, the school term cut-off is for kids born before 1 September), since she might not be learning as much, if I delay her starting of school till after her birthday, I can get her in the class for older kids (aged 3-4 years old) as they accept admissions at any time, as long as there are vacancies.

New Garden – The Bad:
- There were more art murals and decorations than students’ crafts in the public areas.
- They have no website even, and the teacher described their syllabus as following some Taiwan curriculum as their founder or partner is a Taiwanese… hmmm… not sure how superb the English can be…
- Their teacher : student ratio is relatively higher with 3 or 4 teachers to every 25 kids.
- I saw the children immediately jump into bed after their lunch; no down-time or working off the lunch at all!
- Their classrooms seem much smaller, and there was little open space on each floor (quite narrow) for children to run around much.

New Garden – The Shocking:
- They do not have their own open field, using the concrete open space (not a grass field) in front of the school for activities, so you can imagine there might be strangers lurking around since it’s not enclosed and open to all in the neighbourhood.
- Their playground area is a pathetic enclosure of 3-4 structures situated in their compounds, and away from sunlight…
- I caught sight of a few female teachers with fringes almost covering their faces, and with colourful dyed hair, and not looking the most happy. Alert, alert!
- They only had cubbies in the classroom, but outside, they provided wall hangers for coats (looked quite messy, and kids’ coats were overlapping each other, and teachers had to help them get the coats since they were all hung up at a higher level). Worst of all, I saw that their hats/scarves were all thrown into one single cupboard box – one class per box. Aiyo!
- I think I immediately started looking out for ‘The Bad’ and ‘The Shocking’ quite early on in the visit as I peeked into the classrooms and saw a wall mural that read ‘Activities for thes month’ (sic), with the ‘e’ at the end of the word coloured off. But it’s still wrong, as there’s no such word, unless they thought by erasing the ‘e’, they had created ‘this’? Goodness… the level of English is thus very, very dubious then…

Anyway, we then headed home after the visit, as I did not want to stay out too long, given the next day on Tuesday was Mommy & Me time at 3e. Since Wayne was in Sanya, I had to book a cab that morning, and had already given up all hopes of any driver returning my call when as we were wearing our shoes, this lovely driver called me. Yaaaay! It sure is impossible to get a cab at 9:30am in the morning, with toddler in tow, in such cold weather!

So we hopped into our lovely cab and finished off her egg breakfast in the car. We got to know a few other new friends and mommies, those that I did not manage to get their names the last week. We had lovely pasting of cherry blossoms on painted trees on paper plates (which she presented to Nainai when back), sponges and paints, cups with scooping of pasta, and sadly, the same old books. I’ve been wanting to tell the teachers and keep forgetting, so I remembered and told Rebecca that it’s the same old books on the shelf since our last semester of Mommy & Me! They should at least add on new ones occasionally, or better still, change the books for this semester.

Anyway, I find Rebecca more stifling than Alison. Rosabelle was taking a cup of pasta shapes in her hand, and she was almost shooing my girl back to pour the shapes back into the table, for fear of people stepping on them. Hello… the old idea of all these activity tables and sessions are so the kids can create a ‘mess’ and not be inhibited by what goes where, right?

There was once when I wasn’t supervising Rosabelle, and she actually pushed Alice, Rebecca’s 18-month-old daughter. I’m not sure why she did it, but I made sure she said sorry and picked Alice up and give her a kiss/hug after, heh!

After the class, it was cheese time in their lobby, heh! The school and facilities are really good – teachers always sing to the children as they are dressing for outside time, and if not for the distance, the rather ‘elitist’ concept, and importantly, the fees (about RMB9,000 per month!), I will let Rosabelle come to the school.
After that, we took a taxi to Hard Rock Café, where the first level was all closed-off as they were preparing for a 2pm company event, so we headed on upstairs. As I was looking through the menu, Rosabelle was occupied with drawing with crayons, when they suddenly dimmed the lights. I had to tell them to switch them on, and some ‘boss’ of the crew told them that there were still customers dining upstairs, and to not adjust the lights. Thank you very much.

There weren’t very much healthy dining options, so I ordered a kid’s set of spaghetti with tomato sauce (with two slices of garlic bread and free flow of Coke, which I took of course) – RMB60. So expensive! But it was worth it, as our girl enjoyed and fed herself the whole plate of spaghetti and finished all but about two tablespoons worth. Clap clap!

As for me, I ordered a starters combo of spring rolls (had a tad of spice and Rosabelle rejected it), chicken wings (I’d asked for non-spicy – was so tasteless! But Rosabelle liked munching on a small drumstick, haha…), baked cheese potatos, chicken fingers (was spicy and Rosabelle rejected it), and onion rings (she took a few bites and decided she did not like it).

At one point, I felt guilty, and like I was such a bad Mommy that I was piling on the greasy, deep-fried foods on her plate. She was very game to try them all and thankfully rejected them, only eating the chicken drumstick, that was relatively bland and the most ‘healthy’ of the lot, haha! So I ended up with a lot of left-overs (and I had the same junk for dinner that night…).

We ended up with a huge mud pie that I couldn’t even finish (Rosabelle only liked the roasted almond shavings on the dessert), and then got ready to go as we went to the souvenir shop, the only reason why we were there for lunch. I’d seen an ‘Imagine’ (John Lennon) T-shirt in the magazines and had been wanting to get one for my brother-in-law, a fan of HRC tees, and when I saw it, decided it wasn’t as nice as in print. But I still bought it anyway as it helps some hunger foundation, and it’d make a good souvenir, haha!

Monday, January 17, 2011

On a 14-hour HIGH…

On Saturday, our girl amazingly woke up close to 10:30am in the morning, so by the time we were done with breakfast and dressed to go out, it was already way past 11am, and it was a jam going to Joy City.

It’s one of my favourite places since you get shopping and eating in a big, nice mall, and my main purpose was to visit the first GAP store in Beijing there. Lady luck was smiling at me as I gasped upon seeing the store – up to 50% off, ding ding ding!

Wayne and I alternated taking care of Rosabelle as we went about looking at ladies’ stuff, kids’ stuff, and mens’ stuff, in that order. In between, Wayne brought her for a loo break, where she insisted on holding onto a little cloth purse (in the shape of a woman’s face) I’d bought for her the day before, and in it, her precious Combi lip balm I got for her. Wayne must have taken over holding it when in the washroom, and I put it in my back when he handed it to me when they got back. Later, when I questioned her about the missing purse, she actually asked Wayne the next time they went to the toilet ‘刚才给爸爸的Ayi purse呢?’, haha! In the mean time, I’d already chosen a down jacket and a pair of shoes for her to try out.

Pity they didn’t have the down jacket in pink in her size, so I ended up buying a blue/poka-dotted blue reversible one at 30% off (RMB349 after discount), and a pair of pink shoes at RMB119. (And Wayne got a sweater. Me? I did not dare to look in detail and start picking out things – there would have been no stopping me…). In between, Rosabelle was harassing/stalking/chasing after children, one of who was wearing a pair of shades and carrying a haversack (she actually remembered him and reminded me the next morning over breakfast that ‘刚才看到哥哥戴眼镜,拿包' – as you can see, her concept of ‘yesterday’ is still not very strong).

By the time we were done, I was already starving, so we headed to 将太无二 for lunch, where she enjoyed her udon noodles whilst greeting every adult and kid alike around the restaurant, heh! After that, I was craving for a nice drink/dessert, so we headed on up (there is really no lack of dining/snacking options in this mega mall), to get my fix of bubble tea (turns out it tasted pretty bad and I only drank half of it, which was good, as my stomach felt slightly queasy hours later). I then saw that they had Baby Art Museum on the top floor – sounds interesting!

We then went on up, only to find out that it was not exactly a museum, but a place for children to learn arts and crafts. They have a branch in Fu Li Cheng as well, so I actually made a call to find out if I could sign her up for a demo class. She is already exposed to Kindermusik, so I am really looking for a good class for arts/crafts, but thing is they only do weekday evenings (her nap time) and weekend mornings. Guess I’ll pick this up again when come back from Singapore.

On the way home, I was actually hoping that she could take a quick nap in the car, as we were scheduled to have an early dinner with the Choons that evening. However, she was most active/alert, so I gave up all hope and toyed with the idea of keeping her awake all the way till night time, haha…

When we got home, she was still in high spirits, and looking at the clock, we had only slightly more than an hour to go before we had to go out again, so I did not intend to nurse her and let her nap. However, I thought that it’d be quite tough on the toddler, so we had her change, and even after nursing, she miraculously refused to sleep! Goodness… so after about 10 minutes of quiet lying down, I asked if she wanted to get up, and she was exhilarated, my goodness!

However, we were still late in getting to the Village as there was a jam getting there, and the Choons had already arrived half an hour earlier on time at 6pm at Queen’s Café. I was letting Rosabelle hold onto a gift bag for Rachel – bunny hair clips, cloth shoes from Pingyao, and a Hello Kitty winter hat – and she was really taking good care of them in the car. On the way up to the restaurant, whilst on the escalator, I saw Rosabelle saying/waving hello to this laowai standing behind us, heh!

When we reached, Rachel was eating an egg tart, and they had nicely also gotten one for Rosabelle from Queen’s Konditerei next door. Strangely enough, when Rachel saw us, she started bawling inconsolably, asking to go out, and no amount of cajoling from any of us helped. Poor Rosabelle could only pass the bag of presents to Vanessa, and just as she was so excited and looking forward to meeting Rachel Meimei, Rachel obviously wasn’t feeling the same way. Vanessa had to carry her upstairs as she kept crying, so we ordered our sets first.

They were mainly Western-style dishes, and I’d been reading rave reviews about the place, that’s why I suggested that we meet here for dinner. The ambiance and décor all looked promising, but that was really just about it – the courses were expensive (average RMB125 per person consisting of soup, main, and drink), food was really bad, and Tim and Van were quite pissed that they took so long to serve their mains, especially when Rachel was beside them crying away and asking to go home.

At one point, Rachel kept saying she did not want Rosabelle, and that she wanted Ruyi, and Rebecca – her neighbor and playmate and the Mummy from Shanghai, who have also just shifted to Beijing. I thought that was quite rude, and thank goodness Rosabelle wasn’t around to hear those hurtful words, but I put it down to the fact that she’s just a kid and does not know any better. I am really trying to strain my memory to see if there was anything that Rosabelle did in the past to remotely scare her into such hostility, and can only bid adieu to all hopes of both Vanessa’s and my girl being good friends like we are/were, heh!

However, Rosabelle was as usual on her best behavior, feeding herself dinner (no matter how bad the food was…), not crying once, and being very gentle with Rachel, even when Rachel ignored her as she was calling out to her. It’s quite unfair for us to have to curtail Rosabelle’s loving nature and physically hold her back for fear of igniting another crying spate in Rachel, but that was as best we could to avoid another uncalled for and unprovoked meltdown, haha… Poor Tim and Van were already having a lot on their hands in trying to pacify their girl!

In the end, as we were leaving, maybe Rachel decided that Rosabelle wasn’t so scary after all and even sweetly gave her two biscuit liners, breaking into her first smile of the evening. Rosabelle was of course most thankful and reciprocated with a big hug and kiss – mission accomplished for her I guess, hehe!

We didn’t even have time/chance for a photo (can’t imagine the violent protests from Rachel, haha!), and had to bid them farewell since Rachel sleeps early. Sigh! I told Wayne that it’s hard for us to meet up as the girls have really different sleep/nap times, and as the Choons try to accommodate us, we almost always end up with a Rachel who is grouchy from a lack of sleep, poor thing… and then we have to rush through the catch-up…

Anyway, with the tensions eased, we headed to Konditerei next door, where our girl kept saying she wanted blueberry (from the cake), so we bought a blueberry tartlet for her, where she only ate the 3 blueberries on top whilst I finished the rest in one bite. (That's the Ayi purse...)
After that, we went to Uniqlo (our favourite shop in Village), and bought a sweater and scarf for Nainai – we figured she needed the extra clothing/accessories, heh! We seldom have the time to shop around much after dinner in Village as we always eat very late, but this time round was different, so we went to the basement level to look around as well.

Rosabelle loved this baby doll model (that is used to model the baby clothes sold in the shop) at Toonsland, so Wayne took it down for her to hug, making her so happy. However, she refused to let go of it (Wayne enquired if we could buy it, but nope, it’s not for sale), till I had to cajole her and tell her that Baby needs a bath, and she should put it in the bathtub (also for sale and on display) and let it rest after its bath. So she excitedly ran towards the bath tub and stuffed the baby in there when who should come but this bitch of a saleslady, who grabbed the baby from Rosabelle’s hands and said, ‘你别放那啊!多脏啊!', then rudely smacked at the baby’s clothes/socks like as if she was dusting away layers of dust. Wayne carried Rosabelle away and said ‘不好意思' apologetically, but I was FUMING. Poor Rosabelle had a puzzled look on her face, wondering where she did wrong.

So I bent down and used my fingers to touch the bathtub, then rubbed them together, as if feeling for dust, before remarking, ‘哎呀。。。真的很脏啊,应该好好擦一下嘛!', then as we walked away, I told her ‘小孩嘛!谁家没孩啊!' – if Rosabelle wasn’t there, I would have made sure to scold her properly and even complain to her supervisor. First of all, your bloody baby’s clothes weren’t the cleanest things, and if your bloody bath tub is so dirty, why don’t you spend time cleaning your displays instead of snatching toys rudely away from toddlers? Secondly, you are supposed to be working in the kids’ section, for bloody-fucking-goodness. So unless you go and cultivate some patience for working around the kiddos who are the source of your salary, please consider working elsewhere like a granny’s underwear or sleazy sex shop, sheesh! Lastly, I wanted to buy your damn baby but it’s not for sale, so just quote a price and I’ll buy it, dirty clothes and all, and even some of the other useless things, if only I didn’t want to let you earn the commission!

I was ranting away to Wayne throughout after as he kept quiet – maybe he felt bad for not standing up for Rosabelle, or maybe he thought I was too harsh on the lady, I don’t know, but I quickly told Rosabelle that ‘Ayi is so naughty and rude – she wanted to clean the dirty bath tub and save Baby, but she was so rough and could have hurt Baby, right?’. That night, when recalling the incident, Rosabelle said ‘Ayi so naughty!’, heh! I hope Rosabelle can also learn to stand up for herself when others behave rudely/unreasonably towards her, maybe a balance between Wayne and myself, as I can be quite a bitch too myself sometimes, haha!

After that, we went to Devil’s Nut as Rosabelle was captivated by the cute shop display and striking colours. As she was flipping a magazine placed on the lower rack of the table, I warned her to watch out when she got up, for fear of her bumping her head. The next moment, there was a loud thud as she hit her head, aiyo! As Wayne quickly carried her away, she was fighting back tears – it was really quite painful. So naturally, she wasn’t the most cooperative when I asked if she wanted to take photos with this display, and Papa had to carry her, haha…
Seeing that there wasn’t much else to browse around, we then headed back home to wash her up and gave her a milk supper (since we had an early and unsatisfactory dinner). By the time we got her ready for bed, she had amazingly stayed awake for a whole 12 hours! Without feeling sleepy! (Ok, the only time she yawned was in the car on the way back from Village, three times.) I told Wayne and Nainai – if I nursed her and she still did not sleep immediately, I really have to throw in the towel on this one.

I had to eat humble pie. After nursing, I laid her down on her bed and she woke up crying, wanting to lie with me on the big bed, so I had no choice but to carry her out, and she was all excited, even running to Nainai’s room to wish her good night. Sheesh! I was so konked out I just slept as she rolled around on the bed – I think she managed 14 hours straight – so many activities/happenings in one day and she wasn’t zapped, I am really amazed!

Honey Bunny

I got a pair of rabbit ears hairclip online, which are oh-so-cute, and oh-so-apt for CNY in Singapore (I say in Singapore because obviously in China, her hair would be covered by a thick hat/beanie/hood because of the inhumane freezing temperatures here…).

She saw them in the cupboard one night and asked for me to help her put them on as she posed…
And struck a weird pose out of nowhere with her favourite ‘V’, or ‘2’ sign…
And was most cooperative in not moving in this series of shots when Daddy complained that the previous pictures taken with his handphone turned out all fuzzy…
Heh, tres cute!

She does do/say the sweetest things at times, like when Nainai was sitting on the toilet bowl the other night, soaking her feet. So whenever Rosabelle needs to go at such times, I will carry her over the floor of the shower cubicle, but had warned her not to step inside as I had just taken my bath and the floor was wet. The very next second, she stepped in and of course received a severe tongue-lashing from me. When we were done, both of us went out to the dining table as I continued looking at the list of foods to eat for the next day.

She knew I was angry and came up to me, asking me to read a book, and I told her, ‘You know I’m angry at you, so don’t ask me to do things for you now.’ She proceeded to read the book to herself, then came up to me again.

R: Mummy… (in her sweetest voice)
Me: What? (very curt)
R: 妈妈不生气了,玥玥不再踩水里了,可不可以? (giving me her most sincere look..)

I just smiled and hugged her. So sweet.

And that’s her doing a bit of feet-soaking herself – she was playing happily with her toys and refusing to wash up, so I suggested that she could also try soaking her feet like Nainai and Papa. She was so thrilled she quickly rushed into the toilet and let Papa fill up some water for her as she gave me the brightest smile, ever. Heh, the cheap thrills in life…
Of course, we had a hard time cajoling her to stop soaking her feet as her feet were turning all prune-like…

Having guests

A lot of kids have been falling ill in the neighbourhood, keeping them from school, and from playing outside. Something is in the air, I guess. So these days, whenever we head out, Rosabelle is usually the oldest kid around, with the rest either in kindy or at home. Naturally, when she reunites with old friends like Wei Wei, it’s a joyful session for them both, and as we were all heading home after a morning’s play, Rosabelle decided to ask, of her own accord, for Wei Wei to come to our house. Her grandma wasn’t willing as she knows Wei Wei cries easily and might be a handful, and our girl even put in a good word for her, saying ‘微微不哭,来我们家就一会儿,然后回家', haha!

So there she was, in our house for about an hour, as the girls played before lunch. Our girl was surprisingly magnanimous, letting Wei wei touch/play with everything, whilst the older girl was more possessive and not as sharing of the things she had set her eyes/hands upon. When Rosabelle pretended to pour a cup of 啤酒 for her, she even pushed it away, tsk tsk! Luckily Rosabelle wasn’t too distracted by our little visitor, and when time came around for lunch, she was happy to go onto her high chair and eat properly.
As for Wei wei, she kept refusing to come with me to go on home (I’d promised her grandma to bring her back for her lunch), so I prepared a bowl of porridge, sweet potato, broad beans/chicken, spinach, and red capsicum for her. Now, this girl can normally eat quite well, and has quite a good appetite, but she was most picky about her foods that day, spitting out the sweet potato, not touching her greens, and saying the beans/chicken were 臭, haha! Luckily she wasn’t sitting next to Rosabelle and letting her see her bad example… As I was preparing to call her grandma, the old lady arrived at our door, wanting to bring her back. Wei wei continued playing as grandma fed her a few more scoops of the food before they said their goodbyes. She, as well as another good friend Mai Dou, will also be heading back to their hometowns for CNY, so it will be some time before we can see them!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Search

Over these two weeks, I will be been bringing Rosabelle to visit the various shortlisted pre-schools I was enquiring with since way back last early last year. I’m intending to start her on school from September this year (so if all goes well, I will be back at work after the October hols!). On Thursday, we first headed to Ke’er at Pingod. Armed with some questions and references from various sites like this and this, I’d actually arranged to go to another school, Qiming, on this day, but realized that it wasn’t near the Carrefour near our house, so I thought I’d think about it for another day if I was going to have to travel abit to get to her school. So off we went to my first choice, Ke’er, the kindy that Rosabelle’s good friends Mai Dou, Qi Qi, and another girl, Niu Niu, are attending.

There’s not going to be a best way to present this without being overly-wordy, and I do not have pictures to show, so here goes a bulleted checklist at best, haha!

Ke’er - The Good:
- Information for parents clearly displayed
- Some amount of children’s art being displayed in common areas and classrooms
- Nice and big classrooms, furniture, and cubbies
- TV is used only occasionally as a supplement
- They have a once-a-week cleaning of toys, with bedding sent home for parents to wash
- Their sick-kid policy of sending kids with fevers home
- The offer healthy foods (no junk food)
- Reasonable teacher : student ratio (4 for 20 kids)
- They practise a half-day bilingual scheme where one English native speaker is in class/leads the class for the latter half of the day

Ke’er - The Stellar:
- Parents’ comms apparently very good and comprehensive (daily/weekly/monthly reports, email comms etc)
- They handled the incident of Mai Dou falling and hurting his head well – according to his mum, they were most responsible and apologetic and did everything they could.
- On that note, Qi Qi’s mother also had positive things to say about the place, so they already had very good references.

Ke’er - The Bad:
- I didn’t need to make an appointment to view the place; i.e. just walk-in (so strangers can go in anytime and say they wanted to view the place). When we were done talking in the staff room (where our good girl occupied herself with a toy puzzle), I was expected to ‘tour’ the place myself with no teacher to bring me around.
- It’s not as near to our place as I thought, and it was a hassle finding the place in a taxi when we had to walk through and go around the apartments, and I had to carry her in the strong winds as we missed the entrance.
- The children’s toilets, though very clean, didn’t have partitions for the girls. (Rosabelle had to go, and we tip-toed in to use the toilet in one classroom as the children slept.)
- The corridor leading to the office was dark, and the lights were turned off – what if children went there and fell?
- The kids were sleeping at that time, but there were always loud footsteps outside because it was lunch/break-time for the staff as well.
- The teachers, or aides, I saw in the classrooms all looked very Ayi-like, like the nannies you find at home…
- There was quite a lot of blank space in the areas where the Principal said the children’s crafts should be…
- They were a mainly Chinese kindy and the last cohort was the start of their bilingual programme (i.e. not as experienced).
- The security guy wasn’t very friendly, gently shooing us out as he opened the door and waited outside as Rosabelle was on the slides.

Ke’er - The Shocking:
- When I asked the principal, who was a very nice lady, but strangely sends her own child to the international Ke’er at Lido (her staff said her house is nearer there), what her school objectives were, she said they have nothing fancy, just to cultivate happy children with a love of learning…
- It is located next to a recycling centre, and had very messy-looking outer environs with sand/rubbish outside its compounds – heck, a scraps collector was even eyeing us both as we were looking for the entrance.
- I think the worst was when I saw that there were some loose tiles falling off the lobby entrance -- with their sharp parts jutting out and harbouring the danger of cutting kids when they trip/fall over it. As Rosabelle ‘tried out’ their playground equipment, there was a wooden plank with steps on it with the last step dropped out, and obviously not maintained properly.

And so I left Ke’er with a heavy heart – if my first choice of school was just so passable at best, what about the rest? We then took a taxi to Jianwai SOHO to have lunch at Grandma’s Kitchen, where our girl loved the chicken fingers and fries (junk food alert!!!) and we feasted till we had to take away most of the foods for Nainai and I to have for dinner, haha.

The next day on Friday, we still went ahead to Qiming as it comes highly recommended by the mother of Baobao (a kid older than Rosabelle by only one month and started school early).

Qiming - The Good:
Other than the points listed in Ke’er’s Good above…
- There was a pets corner with kids rushing to see a rabbit – Rosabelle also went to crowd in with them and got shoved around as she was the smallest, haha!
- They also allocate (at a cost) things like towels, uniforms and slippers
- Their staff all looked rather professional and not as Ayi-like as Ke’ers
- Maybe it’s because I never saw the kids at play in Ke’er, but the kids at Qiming look happy and inquisitive. The teacher brought me around the school and entered Baobao’s class – Rosabelle caressed Baobao’s face gently and even hugged him, heh! She then went on to go snatch some older girl’s seat, but ended up being shoved off by an older boy, haha! Some kids came over to surround us, and not once did the teachers/aides stop them or scream at them to eat their lunch. They have a lot of empty space around the floors, and after lunch, the teachers brought them to walk/march along the corridors, singing songs to work off the meal before they took their naps.
- As they are in a relatively high-class residential area, their surroundings/compounds etc were all quiet, clean, and safe-looking.
- The security guy and staff were very friendly and patient – when he saw me feeding Rosabelle her grapes and reading to her, he hung around, and then asked a colleague to watch over us when he went to lunch, not once hurrying us.

Qiming - The Stellar:
- I had to make an appointment to see them, and I made at least 5 calls with a lot of changes and to-ing and fro-ing about the date and time, and they were most accommodating in allowing me to visit off-hours.
- The teacher received me at the gate and sat me down, presenting me with a school brochure (I’m a sucker for things like these…). Rosabelle was on her best behavior, agreeing to sit down and read by herself after I told her that Mummy is busy talking to the teacher. She even fed herself grapes, and the teacher commented she was very independent. The teacher also kept asking if I have any other questions, covering a lot of ground.
- There were a lot of crafts and arts displayed all over, even on the ceiling, and there was a stand with the birthday boy/girl’s photos displayed as well.
- Their playground equipment are all Little Tikes, and well-maintained.
- They have ‘orientation’ classes starting in March, where kids between 18-36 months can go to half-day classes from 9am-12pm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with Mummy, to experience kindy life. I thought that’s quite cool – it will help Rosabelle get used to school, the environment, the routine, and the teachers. I told them to contact me for their May/June classes as it’s quite intensive, and no point taking the classes so early on.

Qiming - The Bad:
- Maybe it was the lighting, or the white ceramic tiles, but the toilets looked quite dingy (though they have partitions for girls’ toilet bowls) – there are such facilities in each classroom. As kids can shower in summer, there were two shower outlets as well, but no partitions…hmmm… I hope they at least separate the boys from the girls!
- They actually have another campus at Zhu Jiang Di Jing near our house, but no vacancies, so this one that I went to (Rose Garden), is still a RMB15 taxi ride from our house, and I can imagine, a nightmare during morning peak hours…
- It’s more pricey than Ke’er (RMB3,466/month), working out to an average of RMB4,060/month, and a one-time RMB500 fee for supplements.

Qiming - The Shocking:
- There were some books in the common area that Rosabelle was helping herself to, but there was a very scant selection, with only Chinese books. Most of the books were also very tattered with torn spines and/or pages falling out. The teacher said kids can borrow them home, and they have new books every semester, so the books do go through wear and tear. But can’t somebody easily mend them when they get returned?

Anyway, I have already registered with both schools, who will call me when actual registration begins in May. Next week, I am planning to visit New Garden at Fu Li Cheng. I actually called the other bilingual one in our compound, called
Yue’er, and also under the same group as Ke’er, but their idea of bilingualism is only '15 minutes of English' for 2-3 year olds, so that is totally out of the question for me.

Given that I am trying to minimize travel time (Nainai will surely be doing the picking up in future), I am going to give
Little Oxford at SOHO New Town a try – I wasn’t keen to ask about them in the past as I’d heard that their English teachers are all Filipinos (the accent!), and they only teach English in uppercase (!). It was worse when I heard that the foods the children were served weren’t the ones stated in the menus provided to parents – they even had rotten cucumbers! Well, let’s see… and I will probably make a trip next week as well, so that I will have all these school visits out of the way before we head home next Sunday!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Acting the Big Sista

Today was the first day of a new term of Mommy & Me at 3e, and I was warning Rosabelle to sleep early last night so she could get up on time today. But no, she was kicking around in bed even after Wayne and I fell asleep and gave her repeated warnings to behave, so Wayne was so frustrated that he carried her to her own bed, leaving her to cry herself to sleep as we ignored her.

Naturally, I had to ‘wake’ her up this morning and luckily we managed to get there 5 minutes past the starting time of 10am (as there was a jam going out of our estate, can you imagine that, sheesh?!). There were many new faces, but familiar Claire and her twins Sandrine and Natalie (Rosabelle even wanted to help the former take off her shoes before going in). We made new friends and I realized Rosabelle was the second eldest in the class of about 12 kids. She was happily playing with paints, soap water (bathing toy rhinos and elephants), and pouring broad beans into cups/bottles. She even helped sccop some beans into a cup and gave them to a younger boy. When a little girl wanted to snatch the Tinky Winky Teletubby she was hugging and rocking to sleep, thank goodness she did not smack the girl, but instead quickly grabbed other soft toys for the girl to play. So sweet of her!

When it came to sing-along time and we gathered around, it did not seem as well-organised as those that used to be conducted by Alison, the marketing person at 3e. This time, they got a fellow Mommy who apparently also used to be a childcare/kindy teacher, but she turned off the music before we could all gather, and her 18-month-old daughter wasn’t the most cooperative, whining as she tried to get us all around. When it came to doing some runaway train song where we all had to stand and run in circles, that’s when it all got chaotic and they had a case of ‘runaway children’ instead as they all ran in all directions and got distracted by the other play stations.

Oh well, hopefully it gets better next time.

As we were getting dressed and ready to go, the twins were tottering away and Natalie fell on her bum. Rosabelle immediately ran over and helped her up, then gave her a hug and kiss. So nice of her! Even Claire commented that I teach her so well that she’s so sweet and helpful – so proud of my dearie…

We then hung around in the lobby as she snacked on a slice of cheese, and when she saw Alison from afar talking to somebody else, she actually ran up to her and waved hello – think Alison was quite tickled; guess Rosabelle remembers her from the last few lessons!

I had thought that I was only going to sign up for 5 lessons, and miss 5 because of our Singapore trip, but turns out they also break for CNY, so lessons go on till April 1, and we are in for a total of 7 lessons, yaay… just as well. The sessions are nice and affordable, and Rosabelle enjoys them.

After that, Rosabelle said that she wanted to play outside a little, and we saw some friends from the playgroup playing in the sand pit. I wasn’t really keen on her getting all dirty, but I thought, whatever, she’s just a child, and it’s not like she’s going to roll in mud, so off she went and joined the pair of siblings, Dou Dou, a boy 5 months older than her, and Xiao Mi, a girl barely one year old. Dou Dou was very nice and handed Rosabelle a shovel at first, but our girl had her mind set on getting his scoop. In the end, I had to dig one out from the barrel of sandy tools for her, so each had their own scoop and wheelbarrow to fill.

They were quite happy to do their own thing till Dou Dou also decided that Rosabelle’s scoop seemed much more attractive, and wanted to snatch it from her. Our girl of course stood her ground, and held onto it firmly, running away from him. That must have angered Dou Dou, who scooped up a big load of sand and emptied it all over Rosabelle. Haha! That was quite hilarious, if only not so dirty. Thank goodness the sand did not go into her eyes, and her head was covered with her down jacket hood, but I had to quickly brush the sand from all over her, and the grandma/mom were very apologetic.

The mom then remarked to me that Rosabelle is very strong and resilient, not even crying, and yes, I am proud of her for not even trying to hit or pour sand back on the boy. After that, I told her that what Dou Dou did was wrong, and she did well for not crying/hitting back, but that she should learn to defend herself and quickly move away from him in case he did it again. Looks like she can stand up to some form of bullying!

When we were done, I took a taxi to Lido Place since it's sub-zero temperatures these days, wanting to visit the bookshop – they only have books on 40% off now, not one-for-one, and since they were the same few books, I did not get anything. After I got my breakfast bread from the bakery, we then took a short walk to Element Fresh, where Rosabelle wanted to see her ‘pink Ayi’, one wait staff in pink that she was calling out for every time on a previous visit.

'Pink Ayi’, or Jenny, was there at the door, and we waited a short while to get a table. When I asked her to tell Jenny what she was eating, she did not say a word, but instead opened her mouth and let Jenny look inside – haha! Since we just ate at the Sanlitun branch on Saturday, I wasn’t very keen to get her the same stuff, but there really wasn’t much else suitable for her on the menu. The minced chicken in lettuce I’d ordered was way too salty for her to eat (even I finished only one of the three), so it was back to tried and tested mushroom soup, pork wontons, and mac n cheese for her, finished off with apple pie a la mode. Wayne had coincidentally forwarded me a message that indicated any spending of RMB100 and above at Element Fresh in January would entitle you to a free cup of cappuccino or hot chocolate, so of course I made use of that offer (the supervisor settling my bill after said that I was supposed to get a large cup, but the new trainee put in an order for a small cup instead, so I could use the offer again the next time I came, heh!).

After lunch, in the taxi on the way home, our girl decided she wanted to try on my shades, and refused to let me take them off… How’s that for a 大姐大 look?
I was indeed very amazed at the magnanimous way she treated the younger kids today in playgroup, and think it’s all a part of growing up – that she is now learning to take care of younger children as well. She is also mimicking us adults so well – like when I went into the room with my notebook yesterday afternoon to make a call to the kindergartens I was planning to visit this week, and closed the door to prevent her from disturbing me, she was actually observing me. Shortly after I was done, she took her own phone and went into the room, closing the door after her! Within seconds, she came running out, and grabbed her own book to run in again. Haha! Nainai and I eavesdropped and heard her ‘chatting’, '在哪啊?阿姨不在吗?', as she flipped away at her book. She was there all alone on the bed for at least 10 minutes! That's why Nainai said, very correctly, that 父母是孩子最好的老师.

11 Step Program for those thinking of having kids - by Amy Lawrence

I'm not on Facebook (gasp!!!!), but I read this post on Beijing Kids blog that was originally on Facebook and has been making its rounds. Kudos to Miss Lawrence -- I had to nod in agreement to some...

11 Step Program for those thinking of having kids
by Amy Lawrence on Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 8:24am

Lesson 1
1. Go to the grocery store.
2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
3. Go home.
4. Pick up the paper.
5. Read it for the last time.

Lesson 2
Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who already are parents and berate them about their...
1. Methods of discipline.
2. Lack of patience.
3. Appallingly low tolerance levels.
4. Allowing their children to run wild.
5. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's breastfeeding, sleep habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior.

Enjoy it because it will be the last time in your life you will have all the answers.

Lesson 3
A really good way to discover how the nights might feel...

1. Get home from work and immediately begin walking around the living room from 5PM to 10PM carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly. (Eat cold food with one hand for dinner)
2. At 10PM, put the bag gently down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1AM.
4. Set the alarm for 3AM.
5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2AM and make a drink and watch an infomercial.
6. Go to bed at 2:45AM.
7. Get up at 3AM when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs quietly in the dark until 4AM.
9. Get up. Make breakfast. Get ready for work and go to work (work hard and be productive)

Repeat steps 1-9 each night. Keep this up for 3-5 years. Look cheerful and together.

Lesson 4
Can you stand the mess children make? To find out...

1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.
2. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
3. Stick your fingers in the flower bed.
4. Then rub them on the clean walls.
5. Take your favorite book, photo album, etc. Wreck it.
6. Spill milk on your new pillows. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?

Lesson 5
Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems.

1. Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh.
2. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out.

Time allowed for this - all morning.

Lesson 6
Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don't think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that.

1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.
Leave it there.
2. Get a dime. Stick it in the CD player.
3. Take a family size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Sprinkle cheerios all over the floor, then smash them with your foot.
4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Lesson 7
Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice). If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Lesson 8
1. Hollow out a melon.
2. Make a small hole in the side.
3. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side.
4. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane.
5. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone.
6. Tip half into your lap. The other half, just throw up in the air.

You are now ready to feed a nine- month-old baby.

Lesson 9
Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street , Barney, Disney, the Teletubbies, and Pokemon. Watch nothing else on TV but PBS, the Disney channel or Noggin for at least five years. (I know, you're thinking What's 'Noggin'?) Exactly the point.

Lesson 10
Make a recording of Fran Drescher saying 'mommy' repeatedly. (Important: no more than a four second delay between each 'mommy'; occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape in your car everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Lesson 11
Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continually tug on your skirt hem, shirt- sleeve, or elbow while playing the 'mommy' tape made from Lesson 10 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A day at the Village

On Saturday, we went out for lunch with Wayne’s colleague Jonathan, and his wife Gloria. We’d eaten with them previously, and when Wayne told me about the lunch date, I quickly reminded our girl about ‘Uncle Jonathan and Aunty Gloria’, and she gave a very sweet smile, indicating she was looking forward to meeting them.

So we headed to Element Fresh at Sanlitun Village, which was teeming with people. Luckily they got there earlier and had already secured a table by the window by the time we arrived (I choose to believe they seat good lookers near the table to attract even more people in, wahahahaha!). Anyway, they were very sweet and had a present for Rosabelle – a Tigger plush toy in a bag, and our girl, though a little shy at first, still managed her thank yous, and we settled in quickly enough to order lunch.

Whilst waiting, there was a little boy at the next table, 11 months old, and still crawling all over the place. Rosabelle went forward and Wayne actually warned her to not step on him. In the next second, she raised her leg up and wanted to step on him – aiyo! Maybe she wanted to ride him like a horse, but she came to me after and said, ‘玥玥step弟弟了'. She kept hugging and kissing him after, and that generally occupied her till food came.

As she gets to feed herself more independently (and less messy as well), it’s great for us since we can have a proper lunch, and conversation, with Jonathan and Gloria. I found out Jonathan was doing an exchange at NTU back in 2008, so there were sharings about the 196 bus service, and the hilly slopes on campus, as well as Singapore food, of course, heh! The couple went to Harbin over Christmas, at minus 30 degrees! Gloria said her eyelashes had icicles – I can so imagine, brrrrr!

Anyway, lunch ended fairly quickly, and by this time, the line for a table was even longer, so we were really glad we had an early lunch. We split ways, and we then headed to Wayne’s favourite 泰和草本 for his 24味凉茶, as Rosabelle explored the restaurant and took photos in front of their wall of herbs.
She also showed how much she loved her new Tigger friend…
It was a windy day, and I wasn’t very keen on heading outdoors, but there was an exhibition by Jimmy the famous Taiwanese illustrator – The Starry Starry Night, featuring a lot of cute figurines that we knew Rosabelle would like. And it was a hit with her – see how colourful she blends into the colourful ‘cake’ in the background…
She was wanting to touch and reach out to every Ge Ge and Jie Jie figurine around…
And loved this one with the ‘Ge Ge orh!’…
From far, she saw the figurines of the Ge Ge and Jie Jie standing on a truck, and quickly ran towards it…
After that, the main photographer (me!) was suffering from a case of mild frostbite in my hands already, so we headed to Uniqlo next door to thaw, and I ended up buying some tops – the same thing in 3 different colours (not on sale at that), hahaha… *guilty*.

Wayne also had some retail therapy as he went to Jack & Jones to get a shirt – I went in after I had settled the bill at Uniqlo, and amazingly, when I walked in, the sales lady said, ‘这是你的妈妈,我一眼就认出来了!'. After that, she told me that Rosabelle looks a lot like me – woohoo! I’ve never had anybody say that – everybody just used to say that she looks so like Papa, so like Wayne, that I was blaming my weak genes. God is fair!!!!!!!!!!!

Cheap thrill aside, we then headed home after that, as I had to quickly rush out for my hair appointment. After I’d nursed her, I asked Wayne to lie down with her and she did cry awhile seeing me leave, but I was already running late and got there 15 minutes past my 4pm appointment. My hairstylist, Zhao Ming, had arranged for another colourist, after the disappointing colouring the last time, and so I spent the next 3 hours in the seat, getting my hair trimmed, getting a base colour, and some highlights. The colourist recommended that I do a pre- and post-colour Kerastase treatment, which costs RMB660 in all (just the treatment) – pricey, yes, but I thought, it’s not everyday I do this, and I’m already spending so much on a do, so I might as well protect my hair at the same time.

Well, this is how it turned out (Wayne helped me take this picture at home that night, in case you are wondering why I wore drab pyjamas T-shirts to get my hair done…):
It’s not so obvious from the picture, but it’s basically what I wanted – more obvious highlights, with slabs of red hidden at the base at the back. Heh. Total damage – about RMB2,400!!!! No help that Zhao Ming’s fees have gone up AGAIN! When I first started with him back in 2005, he cost RMB150 per cut, last time I visited, it was RMB280. Since then, he has climbed up yet another level and now costs RMB360! Sheesh! After I use up my remaining value on the card, I really have to scout elsewhere for more affordable, but still good, hairdo…

Anyway, after I was done, I walked to Village (about 10 minutes’ walk, though it felt longer in the cold, brrrr) as Wayne and Nainai got our girl ready to come out and meet me for dinner. She had woken up only past 7pm(!) and even called me 'Popo’ when I was on the phone with her – Nainai said I did sound a little like my mum, haha!

We ended up at The Asian Kitchen, which was surprisingly very fast with their service, so I quickly ate as I waited for them, and had Rosabelle’s plate of food all prepared already when they finally arrived. After a fast dinner, Wayne headed to Esprit as I told him I spotted some casual bags on sale (he’s been looking for one for work), and I brought Nainai to Uniqlo as we wanted to get a thick down jacket for her.

Our girl was most busy, walking around and suggesting to Nainai to try this and that, and I was observing her when I saw her walk to the stack of supermarket baskets, and the security guard then passed one to her as she said thank you – how polite! In the end, Nainai didn’t see anything she liked, and our girl indicated to the entrance of Uniqlo, saying ‘玥玥要戴帽去看哥哥、姐姐standing on truck呢!'. Goodness – she remembered that we came into Uniqlo after seeing the display, and could identify the entrance as the one leading her to the same place. Clap, clap – I am so glad she is obviously not inheriting my navigational disability!

We then headed out to look for Wayne at Esprit – it was around 9:40pm and the sales staff actually told us they were closing. Hello…. Your sign says 10pm, so don’t come and get all lazy on me and chase away customers. I bluntly told them we’re here to look for my husband, which we were, and turns out Wayne found a nice bag and a shirt to buy, and minutes into the store closing, Nainai also found a down jacket in the men’s section that she liked. Yaay… what a fruitful trip.

By the time we headed for home, it was already quite late, and obviously close to around 1am when she slept. The next day, I did up some hairstyling of my own with our girl, who agreed to having her hair tied up when she saw a picture of a girl with the same style. Heh, cute no?